NEW YORK — NBA Commissioner David Stern announced today that the NBA is proceeding with the purchase of the New Orleans Hornets, following Gary Chouest’s decision not to proceed with the acquisition of the interest of majority owner George Shinn. The transaction is subject to a vote by the NBA’s Board of Governors, which will likely occur next week.
“George Shinn has been an exceptional owner for New Orleans and Gary Chouest has been extraordinarily supportive as a minority owner,” said Stern. “However, in light of the uncertain economic situation in New Orleans and Louisiana, Gary has decided not to move forward with the purchase of George’s majority interest although he was prepared to remain an investor in the team. In the absence of any viable purchaser seeking to own the Hornets in New Orleans, I recommended to the NBA Board of Governors that the best way to assure stability and the adequate funding of the franchise would be for the league to step in, and complete the transaction and assume control. The Hornets have a strong management team in Hugh Weber, Dell Demps, and Monty Williams and we have recruited Jac Sperling, a seasoned sports executive and New Orleans native, to be the team’s chairman and governor, with Hugh serving as president and alternate governor. I have notified Governor Jindal and Mayor Landrieu about this transaction and will continue our dialogue with them about ways to strengthen the franchise for new ownership in New Orleans.”
According to Shinn, “When we were unable to complete the transaction with Gary, I suggested to the Commissioner that the league consider the purchase of the Hornets. I wanted to ensure that the team remained in New Orleans, if that was possible, and recognized that the league could provide the necessary funding while a new owner was sought in New Orleans and negotiations with the city and the state could continue.”
“New Orleans owes a debt of gratitude to George for bringing NBA basketball back to the city,” said Chouest. “I have greatly enjoyed the experience with the Hornets and, of course, will continue to support the team.”
Sperling – who founded Grit Rock Ventures, LLC, an investment company focused on sports, media and entertainment business, and is Vice Chairman of Minnesota Sports and Entertainment (MSE), the parent company of the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild – will bring his more than 20 years of sports-industry experience to the operation of the Hornets.
“George, Gary and Hugh have done a tremendous job building up and developing a franchise that delivers fun, exciting and memorable experiences for its fans on and off the court,” said Sperling. “The league has assured me that management will have the necessary resources to build on that success and grow the business through increased ticket and sponsorship sales, keep the team competitive and further the team’s relationship with the fans of New Orleans.”
“Our purpose and resolve will always be to build the Hornets into a championship contender and continue to use our resources to build a legacy in our great community,” said Weber. “I’m privileged and fortunate to have worked for such supportive and collaborative owners in George and Gary and am delighted that they both will remain available to us to provide their counsel during this period of transition and beyond.”